Friday, 17 May 2013

Look inside, look inside your tiny mind

Today marks the 9th annual International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDaHo), and it is important to remember some salient facts.
  • Across the world, 78 countries criminalise same-sex relationships. In nine countries, sanctions can go as high as the death sentence.
  • An estimated six million LGBT students worldwide drop out of school because of harassment by peers and by staff; and the suicide rate amongst LGBT teenagers across the world is disproportionately high compared to perceived "straight" peers.
  • There were 1,123 reported killings of transgender people in 57 countries between 2008 and 2012.
In Russia several authorities have adopted laws banning “homosexual propaganda”, and there is a very real threat this will become federal law. In Eastern Europe, many former Soviet states are increasingly adopting the same anti-gay rhetoric and legislation.

In the US, the recent coming-out of black baseballer Jason Collins opened the floodgates for a wave of nasty-minded (racist as well as) homophobic bigots to "exercise their democratic right to free speech".

Despite major progress towards equality in states such as Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, there is a dangerous wave of Catholic-sponsored bigotry pervading other Latin American countries such as Venezuela and Ecuador.

In Africa, post-colonial evangelical churches with homophobic views hold the balance of power in a vast majority of its nations; and across the Arab and Islamic world, the rise of homophobic fundamentalism shows no sign of abating.

Even here in so-called enlightened Europe, the recent attempts to get a law legalising gay marriage in France had a vicious struggle to face before being adopted by its parliament.

To mark this year's IDaHo, I went along to a thoroughly enlightening and absorbing lecture (hosted by those marvellous people at the Gay and Lesbian Humanists Association - GALHA), as Dr Matt Cook of Birkbeck College spoke on the subject of "Britain's Sexual Revolution". Taking the period commonly associated with sexual revolution in Britain - roughly between 1965 and 1970 - and its "astonishing pace of change", he put the momentous events of that era and beyond into context against the background of the puritanical post-1945 period that saw more persecution (and prosecutions) of LGBT people in Britain than had ever before been recorded.

And here is the entire talk, in full:

[Check about 8:10 into part four to see someone you might know asking a question!]

It will take some effort for those of you who did not attend to sit through the whole two hours - but it is well worth watching, to learn some surprising facts about modern LGBT history and our journey from post-war pariahs to the burgeoning sense of progress towards equality we (privileged citizens of a Western democracy) in the UK are experiencing today. I found it utterly fascinating...

Of course, there is a simpler message - as is traditional on this day every year at Dolores Delargo Towers - to address all homophobes wherever they lurk across the world:

If you haven't done anything to show your support for IDaHo yet, the official website has some "quick fix" ideas.

Taking a more camp approach to awareness-raising, there is also a "flashmob" planned for 5pm today in Trafalgar Square - hordes of people are expected to take part in a synchronised "big dance", to Beyoncé's Single Ladies! Shame I can't be there...

Previous blogs about IDaHo may be found here, here and here.

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